Three to stand trial in marijuana case

Three people were ordered to stand trial Tuesday on suspicion of cultivating large amounts of marijuana in the Hilmar area in 2011, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office confirmed.

Husband and wife Steven and Sara White were bound over for trial, along with their daughter’s boyfriend, Andrew Blevins, after a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Merced Superior Court, said Monika Saini, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case.

Judge Ronald W. Hansen presided over Tuesday’s hearing.

All three defendants have pleaded not guilty to felony charges of marijuana cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale.

Steven White, 44, faces additional charges and enhancements on suspicion of firearm possession in the commission of a felony and utilities theft. He faces a maximum jail sentence of four years and eight months if convicted, prosecutors confirmed.

Sara White, 43, and Blevins, 21, face potential maximum jail sentences of three years each if convicted, authorities said.

Investigators served a search warrant Dec. 15, 2011, at a home in the 19000 block of American Avenue in the Hilmar area. The residents were suspected of illegally tapping into electrical service from the Turlock Irrigation District, officials said.

Prosecutors said investigators found nearly 3 pounds of street-ready marijuana buds, 173 marijuana plants, several firearms and about $40,000 in cash inside the home.

Investigators also found two medical marijuana recommendation cards at the home, authorities confirmed.

The judge ordered the defendants to return to court Feb. 13 for arraignment. All three remain free pending trial.